Okay, maybe the most crucial missing element in US media coverage of climate change is an actual understanding of the dire nature of the issue or maybe the still unjustifiable “balance” whereby the other “side” is treated as serious sources, rather than as long-wrong disinformers or maybe how they are blowing the economics issue (see Must-read (again) study: How the press bungles its coverage of climate economics “” “The media’s decision to play the stenographer role helped opponents of climate action stifle progress” and countless examples here). Still, Donald A. Brown, Associate Professor of Environmental Ethics, Science, and Law at Penn State University has a case to make — and his excellent blog ClimateEthics (a Time magazine Top 15 pick) is the source of this guest post.
I. Introduction: Scottish Versus The US Climate Change Debate
In March, the U.S. State Department asked me to speak to the Scottish Parliament about climate-change policies as they were debating a new climate-change law.
Before I spoke, a Scottish Parliamentarian made an argument that I have never heard any US politician make. The topic of this speech is also curiously largely absent in US media climate change coverage. The Parliamentarian argued that Scotland should adopt this tough new legislation even though it might be expensive because the Scotts had an obligation to the rest of the world to do so. In other words, those countries most responsible for causing climate change have ethical duties to reduce their emissions even if it costs are significant. That is, high-emitting developed countries like the United States must reduce their greenhouse gas emissions as a matter of justice.
In late June, Scotland passed the landmark climate change law that was being debated during my March visit, a law that requires a 42% cut in greenhouse gas emissions by 2020, rising to 80% by 2050. (BBC, 2009) On the day the law passed, Scottish Finance Secretary John Swinney told the Parliamentarians that passing the world-leading legislation was justified because the climate change affects all the people on of our planet and the Scots had a duty to make the commitments in the law. (TWFY 2009)
The US Congress is striving to pass legislation that would for the first time create binding greenhouse gas emissions reductions 12 years after most of the rest of the developed world bound themselves to reduce emissions in the Kyoto Protocol. Yet, there is not the faintest murmur in the US climate-change debate or in the media’s coverage of the unfolding US legislative fight about duties and responsibilities that the United States has to the rest of the world to reduce the threat of climate change. This is so even though the legislation that has passed the House would require 17% reductions by 2020, a commitment that is only 40% of the Scottish requirement.